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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 26811
Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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FOR JD 1992 Sorry for the delay. Incredibly, JA cancelled

Resolved Question:

FOR JD 1992

Sorry for the delay. Incredibly, JA cancelled my account like two minutes after you answered my last question! They gave no explanation at all, but helped me open another account—took 4 hours. Anyway…

My issue with the car dealer is as follows:

I am shopping their website last week and an invitation to chat pops up. The name on the chat window is their Internet Sales manager. I engage in a chat with someone (different name) and I make an offer on a specific vehicle from the website including stock number and VIN. The offer is low and I label it as an out-the-door (OTD) price. As an incentive to them to accept a lower price, I assure them that I am a serious buyer and ready to come in right then and sign papers. The dealership replies, "Yes we can make u that deal" and then there is further chat about how soon I am coming in and whom to ask for etc. etc.

I know this comes as a shock to you, but upon arrival no one wants to talk about "Yes we can make you that deal!!" Instead, it's "We're going to do the best we can for you." Long story short, 5 hours later, we leave the dealership after really rough negotiations. We did sign a contract at a higher price, which was still a decent deal, after they essentially turned somersaults trying to deflect us from the offer that had been made and accepted in writing. Both I and they have a copy of the chat transcript--there is no question that the interaction occurred or what words were used. They also tried to downplay the role of the employee chatting with me--"Oh she's just a receptionist and there to bring people into the dealership. And she did her job because you’re here, right? Heh, heh!" (That's an actual quote.) They simply refused to budge on the issue. We left after midnight.

The following day, I wrote a lengthy email to the general manager with an executive summary at the top simply asking him to do the right thing and honor the agreed-upon price. No response.

Since then, we have completed the transaction and we have taken delivery of the car.

So, this is obviously fodder for bad reviews and the BBB etc. But I'm wondering if there is any legal recourse here. The amount that I paid over and above the accepted offer is roughly $1800, which fits small claims court. What precisely is the legal issue here, if any? Breach of (written) contract? I think it goes without saying that despite their attempts to disparage the chatting employee, she certainly had "apparent authority" to accept an offer since she was speaking for the dealership—not like I asked the lot boy or something. After they kept telling me how her job was merely to attract people to the dealership (in a subsequent email, her title is listed as Business Development Manager) I get the feeling that it's a bit fraudulent if she did that by making unauthorized deals with online inquirers, but I suppose I'd be hard pressed to prove fraud in court!

What do you think?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.
Sorry for the troubles with the website and I'm glad you got them worked out.

The issue would have been breach of contract or deceptive trade practices but unfortunately since you entered into another agreement it will be extremely hard to win this. They will argue that the subsequent contract was a modification of the earlier one.

You would still sue and make the argument that their conduct amounted to "fraudulent inducement" since the internet chat was with the "internet Sales Manager" but it is going to be a tough case. Possible, but tough.

You can also report them to your state's licensing agency as well as the Attorney General. Their business practices are obviously illegal and since you have a copy of the chat the AG may be interested in pursuing some type of fine against them for their actions.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

OK, here I am again.


 


Well, I was worried about going ahead and signing the contract and was trying to think on my feet. My thinking went like this: If I sign this, they could make the argument that you raised here, but if I don't sign anything, that is, I walk out and don't buy a car from them, what damages could I sue for? I figured that I only sustained damages if I paid a higher price for the car than previously agreed. Does that make any sense?


 


Also, are suits for breach of contract and deceptive trade practices (in the $ amount we're talking here) appropriate for small claims court?


 


And when you mention "licensing agency" what do you have in mind? Like the Corporation Commission or the Secretary of State for their business license?

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.
I understand your reasoning but by signing the new contract you probably prevent being able to sue effectively. You can try, but they are certainly going to raise it as a defense.

Yes, these type of suits are appropriate for small claims court.

As for the licensing agency I think it is the DOT at http://www.azdot.gov/mvd/MotorVehicleDealers/LicensedDealers.asp
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 26811
Experience: Began practicing law in 1992
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